Them vs. Us, and Beyond, Part 4
HORIZON OF HOPE
By William Carter
So often, these days, we feel caught in a clash of forces. When passions collide, resolution appears impossible.
Interminable wars, tribal struggles, sagging economies, rancorous politics, divorce courts, teenage gangs sometimes mirror our own internal struggles.
“Kill! Kill!” the drill sergeants taught my platoon to scream in basic training, running down a hill with fixed bayonets.
Violent mainstream movie content suggests such urges are never far from the surface.
Science has brought huge material gains, zero moral progress.
We are as we are.
End of story? Or can the situation change?
Research on human brain activity is famously hard to do. But progress is under way, and a spate of recent books describes the gradual unveiling of this final frontier. Careful, long-term studies are shedding light on the deep wellsprings of our thoughts and actions.
In The Moral Molecule (2012) neurologist Paul J. Zak summarizes decades of research into the ways the brain-and-blood chemicals oxytocin and testosterone powerfully affect human thought and behavior.
How culturally and tribally based languages, including music, express and determine our attitudes and actions via specific brain centers and pathways is the focus of the work of Daniel J. Levitin as outlined in books such as This Is Your Brain on Music (2007) and The World in Six Songs (2009).
Oliver Sacks is a well-known writer on these crossover areas between brain, behavior, and art.
Here are a few other recent titles, in alphabetical order:
We are as we are. Not necessarily as we thought we were — or could be.
The research nudges us past our deeply rooted tendencies to separate mind and brain, spirit and matter, them and us. The physical and spiritual are shown as one substrate. We are encouraged to seek resolution beyond the opposites, within that unified field. At least we can witness ourselves from a wider perspective, hopefully adding some humility.
While the wars rage on.